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Kailyn Gaines is a communication studies and political science combined major interested in advocating for criminal justice reform at Northeastern and beyond. Currently in Postdoctoral Assistant Kurt Zemlicka’s Advocacy Writing class, Kailyn is speaking out about her class’s final project, Students for Northeastern Prison Initiative or NEPI, which focuses on using advocacy tactics at Northeastern to open a dialogue with the administration about implementing a prison education program on campus. The class will be tabling at Curry Student Center on November 23 and 30. 

In Advocacy Writing, what have you learned about advocacy, and how are you translating that knowledge to enacting change on campus?

This semester in Advocacy Writing we’ve learned to identify social problems and make written arguments in order to motivate our community to act for change through discussion and the completion of several writing assignments. As a final project, our class is developing and enacting an advocacy campaign based on my academic research paper, which explored college prison initiatives as a way to better our prisons and communities. Together, we are running a letter writing campaign to bring the topic to the attention of administration and call for Northeastern to join the universities nationwide that offer such programs.

“ If you’re passionate about something, speak up.”

How would the Northeastern community benefit from the implementation of your proposed prison education program?

College prison initiatives have proven to have real, lasting impacts on communities and on the lives of inmates. Prison programs like the Bard Prison Initiative have reduced recidivism (the return to prison after release) to 2 percent, while nationally nearly three-fourths of all released inmates relapse into criminal behavior within 5 years. College education allows offenders to better understand their worlds and communities and equips them to become change agents working to fix the inequality that oftentimes leads them to prison in the first place. Graduates of these programs are able to imagine and realize more meaningful lives and are ready to contribute to the common good. 

As a university, a college prison initiative would allow us to fight for racial justice and combat mass incarceration. This program would allow Northeastern to re-affirm its commitment to civic engagement and community involvement that sets Northeastern apart and use our resources to make important change on our campus, in the state of MA, and within our country.
What advice do you have for students looking to become active advocates on Northeastern’s campus?

Northeastern offers many resources for students running advocacy campaigns. As a class, we’ve received support from the Social Justice Resource Center and the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute. Besides these offices, there’s a large amount of student groups who advocate for various social justice issues, and the Office of Student Affairs is always open to listen to students who feel change on the university level is necessary.

If you’re interested in advocacy or social issues, I’d definitely encourage you to take Advocacy Writing, but in the meantime, watch the news, stay up to date on what’s going on in the world and in your community, and if you’re passionate about something, speak up. As a first step, definitely stop by our tales in Curry Student Center on November 23 from 10 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and November 30 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to learn about our campaign, sign a letter, and talk to us about advocacy.